Try running off the beaten path

By Aaron Mabry | Aug 08, 2011

Have you ever taken the time to wander off the beaten path a bit and explore what lies beyond your normal road course?
For those of you who can empathize, you’ve got your normal two, three and five mile courses that you know elicit a positive workout. You’ve made them your standard and at this point they fit well into your weekly routine. For instance, I can run this course in “X” number of minutes, go home, take a shower and be at work by 8:00 am. And while I commend you on taking the effort to include running in your routine, the negative aspect of this is that you will inevitably get bored and either stop running, or you’ll simply find something else to do.
But running is so much more than that. Sticking solely to road running is like having a Camaro and never driving it above 35 mph. It’s nice to have, but where’s the fun in that?
What’s my suggestion? Rev up that engine and take it to the trail. According to a 2010 special report on trail running published by the Outdoor Industry Foundation, “4.8 million Americans ages 6 and older participated in trail running in 2009.” What’s more is that the report shows a particularly heavy following in the Mountain States, the Western US, and California.
In short, we live in the mecca for serious trail running. People come from all over the world to visit our backyard, so why not take advantage of what WNC has to offer? Here’s three reasons.

Expanded Focus
In my experience on the trail, all of my senses feel more in tune with one another. In contrast to road running where your only obstacle is not getting run over, the variability of the terrain in front of you helps you focus more on the task at hand.
On the trail, you’re forced to duck, bend, jump and sometimes fall a short way. This provokes a sense of awareness that’s harder to come by on even pavement.

Health Benefits
Injury prevention may be the best reason to switch to trails. Due to the dense surface of normal road pavement, every stride you take creates a pounding on the road and is equally returned back into your body.
Over time, the impact provokes injuries such as stress fractures. Trails will reduce that pounding enormously by absorbing that impact due to the lesser density of the surface.  And though your body will need acclimate itself to trails, it’s ultimately the healthier way to put in a few miles.
No more boredom
The single biggest factor for killing consistency in my running routine is boredom. Hitting the trails goes a long way towards revitalizing what passion I might lose on the road. What’s the difference?  Imagine looking to your left and witnessing a beautiful mountain sunrise and the smell of fresh morning dew. Then, imagine running down Russ Ave. to the smell of car exhaust and the local Burger King.  I’d say the latter is bit less inspiring, wouldn’t you?

Three tips for the trails
1. Use the buddy system. It’s always smart not to enter the great outdoors alone.
2. If your terrain is unfamiliar, take a map or invest in a GPS watch.
3. Invest in some Trail Running shoes that offer better traction than your standard running shoe. Rack Room shoes in Waynesville has several options by Adidas for less than $40.

Wednesday –  Run/XT* for 30 minutes
Thursday -  Run 30 minutes
Friday -  Run/XT* for 30 minutes
Saturday –  Rest
Sunday –  Trail Run (Try Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway up past Lake Logan)
Aaron Mabry is a former 800m and 1000m State Champion from Pisgah High School. He ran collegiately at East Carolina University where he had the opportunity to run for Conference USA.
Now married with two dogs, he’s an assistant coach for Pisgah’s distance program. Questions? E-mail Aaron at